Seattle U is Becoming Tobacco-Free

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 9:39 PM PST

On July 1, 2015, Seattle University will join over 1,500 colleges and universities in the United States on a prominent issue-Seattle University will become a tobacco-free campus. This means alumni, students, faculty, and staff will not be able to smoke or use tobacco on campus. It’s a controversial decision.

This decision, while made recently by President Sundborg and his cabinet, is the culmination of over three and a half years of work. Spearheaded by Tobacco-Free Exploration Committee-a committee founded by the Student Government of Seattle University (“SGSU”)-the initiative was led by a group of students, faculty and staff. 

The movement began in 2011 when Austin Richmond, ’13, an SGSU representative, took the matter to SGSU as a public health concern. The following year, then Student Body President Nicole Gaddie, ’14, created a partnership with the Graduate Student Council (the representative body for graduate students) and the Student Bar Association (the representative body for law students). These three groups decided to work together on this issue

Eventually, the Tobacco-Free Campus Exploration Committee was formed. Over two years, the committee led a number of tobacco-free campus events, forums and awareness campaigns. 

The committee conducted a survey on tobacco use and attitude.  According to the Spectator, “59 percent of undergraduate students who responded were in favor of a tobacco-free policy and, according to the State of the Undergraduate Student Survey, only three percent of undergraduate students surveyed used tobacco on campus twice or more a week on campus. For graduate students, the committee found that 32 percent of graduate students surveyed support a tobacco-free campus, while 64 percent favored a stricter policy on tobacco, not a prohibitive one.” The committee also surveyed the law school but did not get a statistically significant response. Faculty, staff and administers were also surveyed, with 70 percent of respondents supporting a transition to becoming a tobacco-free campus. 

In fall 2014, the Tobacco-Free Campus Exploration Committee made presentations to the Dean’s Council and Academic Assembly, sharing their findings and offering an overview of their process and history of the movement. Following the approval from these bodies, the President’s Cabinet (composed of Fr. Steve and twelve top administrators) agreed with the committee’s recommendation-Seattle University was to become tobacco-free institution. 

Nicole Gaddie, ‘14, commends the accomplishments of the committee. Gaddie shares, “Everyone who worked on this project through the years has worked so hard to see it through [and has] committed so much of their time, thought and work.”

The project isn’t over. In terms of the implementation of the initiative, policy must still be developed. This process is being led by Ryan Hamachek, ’09, the Director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion. 

“There is some physical infrastructure that will be important,” Hamachek shared. This infrastructure includes signage so that campus visitors and returning alumni know that Seattle U is a tobacco-free campus. And then there is the policy side of things. We have to define ‘campus,’ because we’re in an urban environment,” Hamachek furthered. 

While the details still need to be determined, starting mid-summer, Seattle U will be an entirely tobacco-free campus. Some alumni might remember smoking in class. That changed in the 1970s. Now, students smoke on campus. That changes soon.  

Written by: Izzy Gardon